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Discuss how the Risk-Needs Assessment (RNA) is used in making determinations about granting bail. 

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Risk-assessment tools are an up-and-coming way to asses the criminal justice arena. Experts say that while it can be useful to use algorithms, there must be thoughtful humans that are a part of the process. Communities need to be involved so there is accountability in risk-assessment calculations. Making risk-based decisions...

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Risk-assessment tools are an up-and-coming way to asses the criminal justice arena. Experts say that while it can be useful to use algorithms, there must be thoughtful humans that are a part of the process. Communities need to be involved so there is accountability in risk-assessment calculations. Making risk-based decisions for bail rather than money-based decisions are crucial in order to not have a poverty prison/jail system where you are punished because you cannot afford bail.

A reason for using algorithms can be seen when you look at how New York City has used risk-assessment, which has helped reduce crimes in the area. A con would be that it is easy to allow the algorithms to target persons of color, which could increase the discrimination that persons of color already experience within the criminal justice field.

Studies are beginning and the empirical data is showing that pre-trial detentions cause worse outcomes for people involved in the criminal justice system. In assessing whether to provide bail or release people on their own recognizance, the court looks to a list of factors to asses the likelihood of the person returning to court for their hearing and/or trial. For example, New Jersey uses a Public Safety Assessment of 9 factors: "age at current arrest, current violent offense, pending charges, prior misdemeanor conviction, prior felony conviction, prior violent conviction, prior failure to appear in past two years, prior failure to appear older than two years, and prior sentence to incarceration."

Once these factors are assessed, the person can be given one of three scores: failure to appear, new criminal activity, and new violent criminal activity. From those scores, the risk-assessment is determined by percentages. For further review, the Harvard Law Review piece provides an extensive analysis of risk-assessment with bail reform in the United States.

Throughout the US, bail reform is on the rise and risk-assessment may help this movement.

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